Give parents power to sack headteachers, says former minister

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The Independent Online

Parents should be given the power to sack headteachers and governors at failing schools under radical proposals to be outlined today by Stephen Byers,the Blairite former cabinet minister .

In a speech to a left-of-centre think tank the former secretary of state for transport, who also served as school standards minister, will say that some education authority powers should be transferred to parents, effectively allowing them to give a vote of no-confidence in senior teachers.

Mr Byers, who has become an outrider for radical Blairite thinking, will also call for residents dissatisfied with rubbish collection, street cleaning or other public services to be given the choice of a new contractor. He also proposed a new tier of personal advisers, modelled on advice staff in Job Centres, to provide people with information about how to make the right choices.

He will say: "The forces of opposition to choice in our public services are gathering. They must be resisted. Choice must not be denied but its scope and scale needs to be expanded if we are to secure social justice. At present choice is available to those who can afford it. It needs to be made available to all as part of a modern agenda of redistribution which includes choice and opportunity."

Mr Byers will call for wide ranging reform of school admissions, arguing that restrictions on pupil numbers, surplus places and school opening times should be relaxed to increase parental choice. He will also seek greater flexibility in the school curriculum to allow education to be tailored to the needs of individual children.

Tony Blair has made choice a centrepiece of planning for the next wave of public sector reform. but Mr Byers will call on ministers to go further still and attack critics who claim that increasing diversity in public services leads to a two-tier system.

Mr Byers will say: "The Government has taken the first, often tentative steps on the path to a choice-based system of public service provision but it must now go much further. There are those who allege that the very idea of choice, giving people a greater say in the services they receive and the diversity of provision that goes along with such an approach must drive inequality of provision and of outcome.

"They are wrong ..."